Now that the dust has settled from the Black Friday frenzy, it's not hard to see why consumer credit took a major leap in the fall.
A record 247 million people shopped in stores and online over the four-day weekend, with the average shopper spending $423 –– up from $398 last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
That news is a little frightening.
Ending the holidays steeped in debt is hardly worth the satisfaction of getting everyone in your family the hottest new holiday gadget.
“A lot of families watch their budget very closely throughout the year and spend far beyond their expectations during the holidays,” says Paul Golden of the National Endowment for Financial Education . “This short period of major spending can lead to long-term problems such as credit card debt, which can cause a burden for years to come. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to gifts you cannot afford. The greatest gift you can give yourself is financial stability.”
Here are five tips NEFE offers to keep debt at bay during the holidays:
Stop at one gift. While shopping, you may come across items that seem like a great fit for someone on your list that you’ve already bought for. Resist the urge. Once you buy for someone, check him or her off your list. If the new gift is even better, be sure to return the previous gift you purchased for him or her.
Don't let guilt rule your spending. Don't be afraid to kick people off your gift list, and don't feel guilty if you have to skip a holiday party or two to stay on track. You'll save by such as wrapping gifts and sending holiday cards can add up too, so avoid expensive wrapping and consider sending a letter rather than store bought cards.
Shop wisely. Consider online shopping to get the best deals, but be sure to figure in shipping costs. Also look for good deals on auction websites. Check sale ads regularly and be selective in your shopping. Don’t wait until the last minute to do your shopping. Set a plan for your time and your spending.
Limit credit card usage. Dig around for extra cash where you can find it (check unused gift cards, cash in rewards points, or even consider doubling up on gifts with a family member or friend). Consider a layaway plan, but be sure you've read all of the fine print and don't agree to a plan riddled with hidden fees. If you are using credit, limit yourself to using one low-interest card and preset a limit that you will not exceed –– and be sure you have enough to pay it off. Keep the rest of your credit cards at home when you go shopping.
Be realistic. Don’t get too carried away with your spending this holiday season just because the economy is showing signs of life. It’s important to stay mindful of your goals and the long-term outlook, and your plan for managing your finances.
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